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Originally published: 2014-02-20 09:28:24
Last modified: 2014-02-20 09:29:10

Performing Arts presents 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'

We've all heard of a "whodunit," but what about a "hedidit?"

Lees-McRae College's performing arts department presents "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," a murder-mystery in which the audience chooses the culprit. 

The production will premiere in Hayes Auditorium on the campus of Lees-McRae College at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27, and run through March 2. All performances are open to the public.

"Charles Dickens died before he finished writing 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood,'" said Michael Hannah, director of the production and associate professor of performing arts. "So, how can we have a musical that tells the complete story? It's simple -- set nearly everyone up to be a murderer and let the audience choose their favorite. 

"Our musical version of this production takes us back in time to a lively, fun-loving 1880s British music hall, first, to enjoy a wonderfully theatrical take on Dickens' last novel, and second, to actually take part in the production by letting the audience vote on whodunit."

Hannah said audience participation is the key to the second act, as the music hall cast presents several possible -- and all likely -- murderers and asks the audience to choose. 

"The cast then has to spin into action to make the audience's choices make sense," Hannah said. "This is a challenging show for our students and a ton of fun for the audience. You could attend every night and possibly enjoy a different conclusion each time."

The production deals with John Jasper, a Jekyll-and-Hyde choirmaster, who is madly in love with his music student, the fair Miss Rosa Bud. Now, Miss Bud is, in turn, engaged to Jasper's nephew, young Edwin Drood, who disappears one stormy Christmas Eve, leading to the audience-driven question: Has he been murdered and, if so, whodunit?

"Each of the principal cast members -- each a potential murderer -- has to learn his or her own version of the murder confession," Hannah said. "Every possible option is provided by the musical's creator."

Once the audience makes its choice, he said, the cast makes the appropriate adjustments, and the chosen murderer comes forward to explain his or her motives for the crime. 

"The audience even gets to match a pair of lovers for the obligatory happy ending," Hannah said. "The whole evening is irreverent and raucous, as the Music Hall Royale's actors vie for the audience's favors. You never forget you're in a theater as you watch one of the funniest portrayals of (possible) murder you're ever likely to see. But everything is not always as it seems, so wait for the very last song, when we reveal the moral of our story."

Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 and 28 and March 1, with a matinee at 2 p.m. on  March 2.

All performances will be held in the Broyhill Theatre of Hayes Auditorium. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $5 for students and children, including state sales tax. Seating is general admission only (no reserved seating) and tickets are sold only at the door. The box office opens one hour prior to show time and can be reached at (828) 898-8709.